Homily for the Feast of St. James the Apostle
This morning we celebrate the feast of St. James the Apostle. One of the sons of Zebedee, they were also known as the Sons of Thunder. We don’t really know how they get that title, but we get an idea of their thunder-like qualities from the Gospel of Luke. When Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem, they were met with opposition because of prejudice simply for being Jews. When they had difficulty finding accommodations, James and John, asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Thank God Jesus tempered that desire a bit.
From this morning’s Gospel, we get a glimpse of where that thunderous spirit comes from – from their mother. Ultimately, the request she makes to the Lord shows how she wants what is best for her sons. She knows that Jesus is the Messiah, but doesn’t understand what type of Messiah He was sent to be. Like so many others, she thinks that Jesus would be a political savior, restoring the Kingdom and bringing liberation from the occupation of the Romans. And within that mindset, she wants her sons to be the closest followers of Jesus. She wants success and prestige for her sons. But she doesn’t truly understand what she is asking.
What this shows us is that the mother of James and John and even the two apostles themselves had an immature and superficial understanding of Christian discipleship. But there was room for them to learn and understand better; they changed and grew as they continued to follow Jesus. That’s the point of discipleship; that’s the point of faith.
Jesus knew who He called to be His disciples. He knew their qualities and characteristics, He knew where they needed to grow and how they would struggle. But He also knew their true potential. And He knows the same about us. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He knows our hearts. He calls us because He loves us and He wants what is truly best for us – not power and prestige, but salvation.
We won’t always get things right as we follow the Lord. We will still struggle to be the best disciples that we can be. But the Lord is patient with us. He gives us the grace to learn from our mistakes and to continue to grow and mature in our journey of faith. Life is a pilgrimage and we must continue walking forward with the Lord.
Today, may we ask St. James to pray for us, to continue being a companion with us in our own faith journey, that he might be a constant example for us to follow as we grow in our understanding of what it means to be a disciple of the Lord.